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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That famous ending
All I can say is the final shot is a masterpiece of cinema. To convey the entire theme of a film in one single shot, in such an understated and almost off-handed way, is nothing short of filmmaking genius. The film would have been memorable without it, but it's this final icing on the cake that just floored me.
I can only wonder how long it took director Hal Ashby...
Published on Sept. 10 2003

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars "As long as the roots are not severed, all is well."
Hal Ashby's "Being There" is often referred to in the same breath as "Forrest Gump" (1994) due to the similarity of each film's lead character. However, close inspection of both films reveal that there is little in common besides the surface similarity. "Being There" is a story of a man who does not evolve as he goes through life. The character of Chance (Peter Sellers)...
Published on Feb. 14 2003 by Steven Y.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That famous ending, Sept. 10 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Being There (Widescreen) (DVD)
All I can say is the final shot is a masterpiece of cinema. To convey the entire theme of a film in one single shot, in such an understated and almost off-handed way, is nothing short of filmmaking genius. The film would have been memorable without it, but it's this final icing on the cake that just floored me.
I can only wonder how long it took director Hal Ashby to dream it up, because I read the original script and it only ends with Peter Sellers walking away from the funeral and tending to a broken tree. Ashby must have had a brainstorm on the set and it was a brilliant one. Watching Peter Sellers walk on water -- as we hear the President end his eulogy with the words: "Life is a state of mind" so effortlessly sums everything up it's almost frightening. When I saw it, I had to rewind the DVD at least five or six times just to savior the meaning. You just don't see that kind of thing in movies anymore.
And to those who think it's some sort of Christ metaphor, I take exception and I think the President's dialogue supports me. The final shot is simply saying that Sellers' character was never told you couldn't do all these amazing things; his childlike innocence was never diluted by doubts about what can and can't be accomplished in this world -- even impossible things like walking on water. He doesn't know it's impossible because no one told him. Indeed, life is a state of mind, and I think thats a mighty powerful idea all on its own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Sellers was the best!, Nov. 10 2009
By 
Hale & Hardy "M2MM" (Langley, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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Seeing this film again after so many years really made me appreciate just what a marvelous actor Peter Sellers was. We lost the Master very suddenly and there will never be anyone like him.

Playing a straight-man is hard work, especially when he must also play the part with such innocence and subdued intelligence. What makes this so entertaining are the reactions of those around "Chance" (or Chauncy) particularly the President and his cohorts. It's beautiful that only one person is actually "clued in" by the end of the film, and he's smart enough to leave well enough alone.

I won't give anything away here, suffice to say this is the pinnacle of Peter Sellers's skills as an actor, as clearly illustrated by the one scene's outtakes during the credits. It was the only scene that he could not do with a straight face and shows just how much of a character Peter Sellers truly was.

Enjoy the film. :-)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Warner Home Video Deluxe Edition DVD of Being There is Not Exactly Deluxe, but Well Done, Oct. 27 2014
This review is from: BEING THERE (DELUXE EDITION) (DVD)
This Warner DVD of Being There (1979) contains the full-length version of the film, in widescreen (the original film format).

The image and sound are good. The colours are fairly vivid, though perhaps not as vivid as the film originally looked on the screen.

This "Deluxe" edition is not so deluxe -- the only extras are a trailer and a short "remembering Being There" piece which is mainly an interview with actress Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas (who won the Best Supporting Actor award for the film). This feature is good and informative, but limited compared to a commentary; and while Douglas gives some interesting insights into her grandfather, we don't get much insight into the film itself. One would think that for a film as recent as 1979 there would still be people alive who could provide a commentary, or at least some short features.

The scene menu is better than most, with 36 stops, making the intervals shorter than 4 minutes, which is handy.

The details of the movie itself I won't discuss because all the other reviewers will have covered that. I'll just make the general comment that I hadn't seen the movie since 1979 when it came out, and I think it still holds up today, 35 years later. Camera work, music, script are all excellent, as is the acting not only of the leads but all the supporting players. The IMDb voters give this film an average of 8.0; arguably it deserves more than that, something approaching a 9.0.

This DVD can still be obtained fairly cheaply, directly from Amazon, and from affiliated merchants. Now would be the time to grab it if you have never seen it and want to put your toe in the water in the most inexpensive way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and haunting....., May 31 2004
By 
D. Pawl "Dani" (Seattle) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Being There (VHS Tape)
This film is like none I have ever seen before. In the past, when I thought of Peter Sellers (who plays lead character "Chance the Gardener"), my mind automatically went to Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series. I thought of the bumbling, clumsy and silly detective in hot persuit of the pink panther jewel. What a terrific change of pace! I really got a sense of Peter Sellers' depth as an actor in this brilliant film. Sellers, Melvyn Douglas, and Shirley Maclaine were all strong leads in this story, along with a great supporting cast.
BEING THERE tells the story of Chance, the Gardener, a simple man who spends his entire life gardening in the backyard of his boss' house, until one day the old man passes away. When a couple of journalists come around to find out more about the former master of the house, Chance is the only one there. The house must close, and for the first time the man must make strides into the big, wide world. This world is like nothing he could have ever imagined outside of the house where he worked. One thing that keeps him tranquil and holds his attention is the television. As Chance says, "I like to watch." (this line is misinterpreted a few times during the course of the movie.) By chance, Chance meets up with Shirley Maclaine the wife of an elderly billionaire. This is just the beginning of an intriguing series of events where Chance--renamed Chauncey Gardner--the simple man who speaks of plants and their growth (the only real knowledge he has about the world) becomes central as wise sage in one of the most intriguing political ventures.
This film has moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, and serious elements as well. (The final scene is chilling.....that is all I am going to say......)
Check it out if you are in the mood for something completely different. In the words of Chauncy, this is definitely a film "I like to watch."
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5.0 out of 5 stars I'm so pleased I was...and could be again, April 5 2004
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: Being There (Widescreen) (DVD)
This is both a political satire and a contemporary fable such as Hans Christian Andersen might have written had he lived in the 1970s. It shares much in common with "The Emperor's New Clothes" (1837), except there is no Honest Boy to point out that Chauncy Gardner is not whom he is assumed to be. Actually, Jerzy Kosinski wrote the novel on which this film is based and it was skillfully directed by Hal Ashby. The acting throughout the cast is outstanding. Douglas received an Academy Award for best actor in a supporting role, Sellers a nomination for best actor in a leading role. MacLaine is also terrific. Obviously, Eve is devoted to her husband as well as very fond of him but starved for attention and affection when Chauncy appears in her life. She is attracted to him just as everyone else is. (I have already noted that this is a fable.) I should point out, now, that at no time and in no way does Chauncy consciously and deliberately attempt to deceive anyone. Yes, he really is THAT dim. If contrasted with him, Forrest Gump would seem like Gore Vidal. Credit Ashby and Sellers for establishing and then sustaining precisely the right tone. The satire has an edge throughout the film but is nicely balanced with gentle humor and tender moments. As someone immortal once said, "All's well that ends well." Indeed, I cannot imagine a more appropriate final scene for Being There.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thinking man's Forrest Gump, Dec 1 2003
By 
Francois Tremblay (Montreal, QC Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Being There (Widescreen) (DVD)
Being There is the story of Chance (Peter Sellers), a slightly retarded man who has been gardener all his life, and is only interested in television. When the house owner dies, Chance is forced to go out in the real world. One freak accident involving a television later, he enters the life of the Rand family. His dress and demeanour makes everyone believe him a patron of industry, and soon his mundane and rote gardening pronouncements are revered as profound statements.
Being There is the story of a cypher who becomes popular because he appears to be powerful, and not despite but rather because of his pronouncements (such as "I like to watch TV", perhaps the most wildly interpreted of Chance's statement in the entire movie). As such, it is mostly reactive : everyone bounces on Chance, his appearance and his pronouncements.
There are many scenes to talk about : although it rarely deviates from its main theme (the wish-fulfillment of people who interpret banalities as profound, both politically and socially), this movie is very interesting philosophically. For instance, Also Sprach Zarathustra with modern rythms superimposed on it plays throughout Chance's first forays in the "real world". Chance tries to "turn off" a gang member with his remote control, or enters a car for the first time. But the story doesn't dwell too much on Chance's inexperience : he doesn't know how things are supposed to feel, but he does know things from television.
Being There is suppored by Peter Sellers' performance. It's not a hard role, but he plays it perfectly. The movie is about interpretation of the mundane and the limits of semantics, about our limited views of the world, and has often been interpreted as a shot against politics and "a thinking man's Forrest Gump".
Interestingly, one review I read compared Chance to the Buddha - he certainly sees the world through "new eyes", and is perfectly at peace with himself. He is incapable of thinking far beyond what he can perceive, like most people, but that is due to his retardation, not his will - in that sense at least he has an excuse ! Indeed, it seems a strong analogy between Chance and the people around you can be drawn as well, and that is because Chance's retardation is shown clearly enough that it can withstand very interesting analogies. Should we consider mindlessness as a mental problem ?
The story doesn't make everything tidy (for one thing, it doesn't clearly explains Chance's early life or his mental problem), and in that respect it provokes reflection in more than one aspect. Movies shouldn't explain everything or tie loose ends : that's boring. Being There is not only intellectually satisfying and interesting, but it's also not boring.
Chance : "In a garden, growth has its season... as long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be well in the garden."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Real presence, July 15 2003
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Being There (VHS Tape)
'Being There', starring Peter Sellers in perhaps the best performance of his life (he was nominated for the Academy Award for this), and adapted from Jerzy Kosinski's brief but rich novella, is one of the great, under-rated films that fill video-store shelves, rarely to be rented or purchased, but holding great rewards for those who do.
Perhaps it was in thinking of 'The Tao of Pooh' and 'The Te of Piglet' that the image of Chauncey Gardiner (Chance, the Gardener) came to mind, as someone who is as close to pure being and a human being can be. Unspoilt by intellect, education, or experience of society, Chance the Gardener has been raised in a protective environment where he main concern is for plants, other living things coming close to simple being, and for a mindless attentiveness to the television that washes over him like a halo, providing him with sufficient information to make others around him believe he is wise and knowledgeable.
In the film we come upon Chance as 'the old man' has died, and the lawyers are coming in to close the house. As a man apart from society, there is no record of Chance even existing (which becomes important later). He is a mystery from the beginning, made all the more mysterious by his completely innocent, non-evasive manner. This is rare for Washington, D.C.!
Having been turned out of the house, Chance begins his partial discovery of the real world. He experiences hatred, deprivation, and solitude for the first time, but all of this leaves little impact upon him. He continues his solitary journey until stopped by a store display of television sets, at which time he backs up to watch himself being displayed from the video camera, and is injured by a passing car belonging to Benjamin Rand, wealthy financier and kingmaker. Mrs. Rand is in the car (played astutely by Shirley MacLaine), and insists on taking Chance (who, while taking his first alcoholic drink, garbles the words to the degree that she mishears his name, becomes at this point Chauncey) back to the Rand estate, where doctors and nurses are in attendance at the sick-near-dying bed of her husband Benjamin.
Chauncey floats effortlessly through this world. Without apprehension and without an image to protect and project, he is simply himself, and in so being, becomes a mirror to project the hopes of those around him. While he speaks in terms of gardening almost exclusively, others, from Mrs. Rand to the President of the United States (who ends up quoting him in a speech) believe he is a master of metaphor, and, much like a mystical text, are quick to assign their own meanings to his words.
Because Chauncey is without affectation, well-mannered and, above all, a curious listener, people are charmed by him. The policeman outside the White House respond when he reports a sick tree in the park. The Russian ambassador responds when Chauncey laughs at his Russian jokes. The Rands respond because they both need, above all, hope. Chauncey becomes a cipher for all.
Chance is a mystery. The President quotes him in a speech, after meeting him at the Rand estate. But who is he? The CIA and the FBI cannot find any information on him. Thus, both decide he must be an ex-agent who has 'wiped the slate clean'.
Ultimately, it is unclear, purposefully so, if Chance is in fact mentally deficient or spiritually enhanced. The disturbing message of the film and novel is that even a little learning can be a soul-destroying force; ignorance is bliss, and enables one to walk on water when one doesn't know one can't.
Will Chance succeed, by Chance? Will the Randian consortium in fact propel him into the Presidency? Would you, the viewer, want him as President?
Filmed largely at the Biltmore Estate (pictured as if it were in the centre of the District of Columbia), this is a visually interesting film as well as an intriguing story, with superb acting performances and an ambiguous moral at the end. The very last words of the film are
'Life is a state of mind.'
Is it really? You decide.
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5.0 out of 5 stars simple and understated, June 29 2003
By 
Eric J. Lyman (Roma, Lazio Italy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Being There (Widescreen) (DVD)
Part Forrest Gump and part Life of Brian, part the fable of The Emperor Has No Clothes and part parody of the story of Christ, Being There leaves a lot of room for meaning in a simple, artful, and seamless script. And the acting is suburb: I consider it to be on par with Dr. Strangelove as Peter Sellers' finest film.
Being There is a must-see for anyone who appreciates comic subtlety and dark humor.
My favorite interpretation of the film is that of Mr. Sellers' character -- Chance the gardener, or, later, Chauncey Gardiner -- as a Christ-like figure. The film's magnificent ending supports that take, and subsequent viewings reveal more evidence earlier in the motion picture of Chance as a reluctant savior, an increasingly in vogue interpretation of the Biblical Christ.
From a different view, I guess it's a stretch as a political metaphor. After all, who would believe that such a simple man with such a limited vocabulary and an inability to grasp even moderately complex issues could find a place in the public's political consciousness? Heh heh.
But I think Mr. Sellers, who is best known as the bumbling and hapless Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, would warn against taking his work too seriously. Maybe it's best to take the film as it is: a simple and understated story made great by one of the 20th century's acting geniuses.
Regarding the DVD, the film quality is fine but the overall package is a little short on extras. I know that few DVDs of films more than 20 years old carry things like behind-the-scenes filming or director's commentary, but it would have been nice for the producers of the DVD to do a little more to take advantage of the medium besides including the original trailer. But this small caveat is no risk to the five stars I will give the film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Positively Hilarious, May 18 2003
By 
D. W. MacKenzie (New London CT) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Being There (VHS Tape)
'Being There' is one of the funniest films ever. The storyline is as hysterical as it is original. One might try to make it out to be a funny version of to 'Mr Smith goes to Washington' but there really is no other film like it (that I know of). What makes this film so hilarious is its' dialogue and timing. These elements make the story work, as Sellers character moves from obscurity to celebrity.
Peter Sellers gives one of his finest performances as the timid idiot Chance (as opposed to the confident idiot, Clouseau). The misunderstandings that propel Sellers' character to fame are as clever as they are funny. He is better here than in the Pink Panther films. PP films deliver good slapstick, though sometimes predictable. This films humor is far more subtle and less predictable- making this film all the more funny. His ability to seem so simple to the audience, yet also seem profound to other characters makes all the jokes work. Shirley McClain delivers a solid performance as well.
This is a work of comedic genius.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "I like to watch...", April 19 2003
By 
Michael Mathena "Michael Mathena" (Valley City, Ohio) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Being There (Widescreen) (DVD)
Peter Sellers is wonderful as the simpleton gardener who in middle age finds himself in the real world for the first time and through a series of coincidences is hailed as a genius with all cures for mankind's problems. As a confidante to a wealthy philantropist, Chance the gardener is introduced to the President of the United States. Paraded through formal dinner parties, invited as talk show guest, and eventually investigated by the CIA, "Chance Gardener" becomes an unprecidented enigma .
A star-studded cast includes a beautiful Shirley MacLaine as the tycoon's wife who is very attracted to the "inexperienced" Chance. Melvyn Douglas took the Best Supproting Actor Oscar (his second) for his role as the dying philantrophist.
The slow moving yet poignant film offers many observations about people and how they are perceived by new acquintances. Peter Sellers' character benefited greatly from his handsome, classy attire when forced out of his home of many years. His simple speech would have been taken as foolish babble, had the man been dressed in rags.
There is a particularly moving scene near the end of the film, when Chance's benefactor is layed to rest. Seemingly disinterested in the ceremony, Chance wanders off, examining nearby plant life, to see what improvements need to be made. The DVD version offers a hilarious set of "bloopers", showing how Sellers can't get through the lines without laughing out loud.
"Being There" is certainly quite a departure from any standard comedy/drama. Not for everyone, but worth a chance!****
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Being There (Widescreen)
Being There (Widescreen) by Hal Ashby (DVD - 2001)
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